In Part I, I discussed the preface to my diet – and now I’m going to dive into the principles and practices.
If you haven’t read part I, I suggest giving it a read now.
Otherwise, let’s dive into this:
As I posited in Part I, that the way you look is 90% diet – and it’s the diet part that so many struggle with.
My objective here is to lay out my personal diet guidelines and hopefully help some of my readers as well.
I originally started writing this part in the same verbose style as Part I, but then I deleted everything because I remembered that my goal with Part II was to convey the minimum amount of information required to impart a smarter approach to eating upon my readers.
However, it’s important that I reiterate one of my points from Part I, which is that in order for you to eat intelligently, you need to understand the reasons for making new choices when it comes to the foods you put in your body. Otherwise, your ‘diet’ will seem cumbersome and restrictive, rather than empowering and invigorating.
There are 4 Keys to This Diet, which I will explain below.
Key #1: Eat Low Glycemic Carbs (mostly veggies)
Key #2: Eat Ample Amounts of Healthy Fats
Key #3: Protein. Protein. Protein.
Key #4: Balanced Meals (Protein, Fat, and Carbs, at Every Meal)
Ready to Learn?
Welcome to Part II: A Sustainable Diet
Every calorie you ingest is either a protein, a fat, or a carb.
What you need to know is which proteins, fats, and carbs to avoid – and which to incorporate into your diet.
By avoiding certain foods, you are eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet that are sapping your energy, stalling your fat loss, and growing your waistline.
By focusing on incorporating certain foods into your diet, you are supplying your body with even, sustained energy levels, a natural metabolic boost, a satisfied and naturally suppressed appetite, and the key building blocks for lean mass.
We need to think of food in an honest manner, which is that food is a literal energy source for our bodies.
The primary source of this energy comes from carbohydrates.
The carbs you eat will either make or break your diet.
Welcome to Key #1: Eat Low Glycemic Index Carbs
Firstly – you must know that virtually every single carb you ingest, (except those that your body cannot digest – i.e., fiber) is immediately converted into Glucose through the digestive process.
Glucose, or blood sugar, is the body’s primary source of energy. So, think of carbs as energy.
Whenever we consume carbs, our body must then do something with that Glucose, or energy.
The body has 3 primary uses for blood glucose: the body can use the glucose for energy. (Burning calories), the body can replenish depleted energy stores in your muscles (glycogen uptake), or excess glucose that is not burned or sent to replenish muscle stores will be turned into fat.
This probably sounds rather simple, yet at the same time mind numbingly complex.
How am I supposed to know if the carbs I eat are going to be burned, used to replenish my muscle energy, or stored as fat?
This is the key; we want to ensure that the carbs we eat are being burned as energy, or used to replenish muscle glycogen stores – instead of being stored as fat.
So while we can’t peek inside our bodies to see if our glycogen stores are full, or if our blood sugar is low, we can regulate the amount of energy we dump into our bodies at once by eating foods that provide us with sustained energy that is slowly released into our body, rather than overloading our system with excess blood sugar, which is then stored in the body as fat.
This is the key to using carbs to our benefit. We want to regulate and balance our blood sugar through our diet.
That sounds amazing, how do I do that?
Welcome to the first key to my diet, The Glycemic Index
To balance your blood sugar, we are going to eat low glycemic index foods. The glycemic index, or GI Index, is the measure of how quickly one gram of a given carbohydrate increases your blood sugar.
From the Harvard School of Public Health:
The glycemic index aims to classify carbohydrates based on how quickly and how high they boost blood sugar compared to pure glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index, like whole oats, are digested more slowly, causing a lower and gentler change in blood sugar. Foods with a score of 70 or higher are defined as having a high glycemic index; those with a score of 55 or below have a low glycemic index.
So, high GI foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, while low GI foods release blood sugar into your body at a more slow and steady rate,
If we eat low GI foods, our body is provided with sustained energy, which we can burn over time; however, when we consume high GI foods, our body is flooded with blood glucose at a much faster rate then we can burn, which causes the excess glucose to be stored as fat in addition to causing us to feel hungrier again sooner.
The glycemic index is one of the primary reasons why certain carbs like sugar are ‘bad’, while other carbs like whole grains, are ‘good’.
We can use the glycemic index to discern good carbs from bad carbs. The most interesting facet of the glycemic index is that refined carbohydrates like white bread, white flour, white rice, and white pasta, have the same net effect on your blood glucose levels as pure table sugar! (They spike it!)
This is why people who follow a low-fat diet often fail. They aren’t doing anything to control their blood sugar.
You want to eat only low GI foods. (There are two exceptions to this rule, which I will cover in Part III.)
On the glycemic index, foods are rated high (greater than 70), moderate (56-69), or low (less than 55).
Take a few minutes to look at the glycemic index for over 100+ foods at The Harvard Medical School website.
Seriously, visit the link.
You’ll be amazed when you look at the glycemic index of these common foods.
When it comes to eating low GI foods, keep it simple.
You will go crazy trying to look up the glycemic index of every food you eat.
Instead of trying to police yourself, you are much better off keeping it simple and starting out with foods that you know won’t spike your blood sugar.
I started out with an ‘approved’ list of low GI foods that I regularly purchase, and these still make up the bulk of my carbohydrate intake to this day.
I stick to sprouted whole grain tortillas, sprouted whole grain bread, and whole leafy green vegetables.
I avoid desserts, sugars, juices, refined carbs (white bread, pasta, white rice, rice cakes, and other processed foods). I also avoid certain foods like potatoes, which have a glycemic index of 90! Yikes!!
Eating low GI needs to be a way of life for you if you want to have lean mass and sustained energy. If you google the GI of the foods you are eating, you’ll continually learn which foods you should avoid, and which low GI foods you should focus on incorporating into your diet.
Again, for me this means keeping it simple. So, that’s the first key to eating intelligently: eating low GI foods.
Welcome to Key #2: Eating Ample Amounts of Healthy Fats
As we learned in Key #1, not all carbs are bad – just certain carbs, so too in key #2, will we learn that lesson about fats.
I’m not the first person to tell you that almonds and avocados are good for you.
But it’s my aim to teach you why they are beneficial to you, as well as which fats to avoid.
The Skinny on Fat: Ending the Low Fat Myth
Low fat diets have been proven to be unhealthy.
Furthermore, eating fat has been proven to NOT make you fat.
Check out the links if you don’t believe me. Check them out anyway. You need to get over your fear of fat.
If you have a fear of fat, it should be a fear of Processed Trans Fats.
It’s not fats that are going to make you fat, but too little fats, or the worst offenders, processed trans fats.
Processed trans fats are often found in fried and processed foods. (Think margarine, shortening, pastries, donuts, muffins, biscuits, cookies, cakes, frosting, pies, crackers, chips, bread, instant flavored coffee drinks, microwave popcorn, and the usual fast food suspects. Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-are-trans-fats-bad/#ixzz2Xg2KQw56)
Processed trans fats have only been a part of the human diet for the last 100 years, and to this day remain so foreign to researchers that the exact processes by which trans fats produce health problems are still unknown, but the studies are freaky and the results are hellish.
Processed Trans fats are produced by adding additional hydrogen atoms to vegetable oil, through the process of hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation. This makes the oil more stable and reduces the likelihood that it will spoil for foods that are manufactured to stay fresh longer and feel ‘less greasy’.
The scary thing is, is that in the US, if a food has less than .5 grams of fat per serving, the manufacturer may list the amount of fat as 0 grams on the label.
So just how bad is this stuff? For starters, health organizations recommend that people limit their daily intake of this fat to 1 percent of your total calories. (Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, that’s approximately 2 grams of trans fat each day.) That means if you eat four servings of these “trans fat-free” products that actually have trans fat, you could be up to your limit.
From Men’s Health: What the FDA Doesn’t Tell You About Trans Fat.
To avoid trans fats altogether, you want to avoid processed food. If it came from a factory, don’t eat it.
Fortunately, if you live in Austria, Iceland, Switzerland, or Denmark, you are okay, since your governments have banned processed trans fats completely.
But wait – there are natural trans fats, which you need not fear.
Not all trans fats are processed inside an industrial food plant. There are natural trans fats, which are not the plague on society that processed trans fats are. I don’t want to confuse you, but the decade long war on trans fats has not given consideration to naturally occurring trans fats from meat and dairy foods.
But aside from these naturally occurring trans fats which you should get only from grass fed animals, you want to avoid processed foods and processed trans fats like the plague.
Again, keep it simple. If it came from a factory, or has more than a handful of ingredients, it’s not good for you.
Now that we’ve covered processed trans fats, let’s briefly cover the other three types of fats, saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.
Saturated Fat: the other ‘Bad’ fat – or is it?
Unlike trans fats, saturated fats have a long shelf life because their carbon bonds are all ‘saturated’ with hydrogen atoms. Unlike trans fats, they also have a high melting point, which is why when we place a steak in the fridge, we can see the solid fat on it.
But saturated fat is a tricky one. While it’s certainly not the leper that trans fat is, it’s definitely not fish oil – but it’s also NOT something that you should avoid completely. There are good and bad saturated fats.
Saturated fats have gotten a bad rap beginning in the 1950’s and we’ve been conditioned to believe that they will clog our arteries, and we’ve been told to avoid them ever since. But saturated fats are actually a necessary component in our diets and they actually have a positive effect on hormonal levels.
Saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources provide the building blocks for your cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances that are essential to your health. They also act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins, and are required for mineral absorption and for a host of other biological processes.
From Mercola.com, These Vilified Foods Help Build Hormones and Tame Your Appetite.
Some examples of saturated fats are:
- High-fat cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork)
- Chicken with the skin
- Whole-fat dairy products (milk and cream)
- Ice cream
- Palm and coconut oil
So which saturated fats should I avoid?
My approach to saturated fats are to eat them as I wish when they are from plant sources, such as coconut oil, and when it comes to saturated fats from animal sources, I eat them freely when they are from pasture raised sources. This means my beef, milk, cheese, and butter, all come from grass fed cows, and the other meats I eat are all pasture raised.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough and it deserves it’s own 10,000 word post, but there are plenty of other sources out there to support this. Eat only pasture raised meat and dairy products. It is so much better for you.
So, if you are avoiding trans fats completely (which are way worse offenders than saturated fats) and your only animal sources of saturated fats are from pasture raised animals (grass fed beef, free range chickens, and wild game), then don’t fear saturated fats. Again, I’d like to write an entire novel here – but I’m trying to be concise.
If you’re still scared of saturated fats, read What if Bad Fat is Actually Good For You, at Men’s Health.
The Healthy Fats: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated
Going back to food as energy, fat is nature’s most dense source of energy. At 9 calories per gram, it has 5 more calories per gram than protein or carbs, which both come in at only 4 calories per gram.
Good fats are an excellent and readily available energy source. They also reduce the glycemic load of carbohydrates when consumed together, in addition to helping you feel fuller, longer.
This is a type of fat found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
Monounsaturated fats are your avocados, your olive oil, and your almonds. The classic ‘good fats’.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, flax, and various oils, such as soybean, corn, safflower, and sesame oil. While these are classified as ‘good’ fats, because of their positive effect on cholesterol, they are second in preference to monounsaturated fats in health preference and because they tend to damage when heated. Because of this, it’s best to consume whole food sources of polyunsaturated fats, such as fish, or to consume only unheated polyunsaturated fats. (in the form of room temperature pills, or refrigerated oils.)
Incorporating the Healthy Fats into Your Diet
This section is part of Key #2, which is to eat ample amounts of healthy fats. At first, this seems difficult as you feel like you can only eat so many almonds and avocados, but as you
spend more and more money at whole foods learn to expand your horizons, it gets easier.
To accomplish this, I eat a few avocados a week, I eat Smart Balance Peanut Butter, and ample almond butter, I drink whole milk from grass fed cows, I eat grass fed butter, I drink bulletproof coffee, made with grass fed butter and coconut oil every morning, I eat grass fed cheese, and pasture raised cuts of meat, I take these pills every day, I put olive oil in my protein shakes, I eat fish, and I genuinely make an effort to make healthy fats a part of every meal I eat. I even drink these weird drinks, and of course, I avoid processed trans fats and fats from processed foods.
Again, you’ve been conditioned by conventional wisdom to be afraid of fat. Get used to eating lots of the right fats and you’ll look and feel better. This is a huge key to this diet and it’s based on the best science – not antiquated conventional wisdom.
Now for Key #3: Protein, Protein, Protein!
We can’t forget the cornerstone to a good diet – ample, high quality protein intake.
High protein diets have typically been easy for people to follow and generally have provided positive results as their users have experienced weight loss from the increased protein consumption replacing high GI carbs and unhealthy fats.
But the high protein diets are rooted in antiquated conventional wisdom and they fail to take a holistic approach to your diet by providing you with the proper carbohydrates and fats to have your body running at an optimal level.
Without the right fats and without proper carbs, your body relies on inefficient processes to access the energy it needs to function. This results in your body relying on the liver and your muscles for energy in the absence of proper blood glucose levels. This means that you will lose a lot of water that your muscles retain, which will be gained back when your body replenishes lost muscle glycogen. So, high protein, low-carb diets are a great way to quickly lose water weight.
But dismissing the high protein, low-carb diet, isn’t dismissing the high protein part. Most American’s don’t eat enough protein. Again, forget conventional wisdom. It’s crap when it comes to diet.
All you should care about is science.
Which is why I’m here to explain why your body needs ample protein.
From a dietary standpoint, protein serves two main functions. It fills you up and keeps you full, and it provides your cells with the proper building blocks needed to grow and repair – particularly your muscles.
By consuming protein at every meal, we are filling ourselves up – without relying solely on glucose producing carbohydrates, or calorie dense fats.
We are also keeping our bodies in a state of positive nitrogen balance, which along with balancing and regulating our blood sugar through a low GI diet, ensures that our body does not waste precious muscle tissue. This keeps you in an anabolic, or muscle building state – rather than a catabolic, or muscle wasting state.
Knowing the paramount importance of protein, now it’s just a matter of learning which proteins to consume and which proteins to avoid.
With carbohydrates we used the glycemic index to discern good from bad carbs.
With fats, we learned about healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), good fats (unsaturated), and bad fats (processed trans fats).
But with protein, we need to take balance into account because there are many different types of proteins and we will eat multiple types on a daily basis, even rice; although it is a high GI food, has 5 grams of protein per cup.
So rather than write another novel, which I promised not to do but ended up doing anyway, I’m including an image from The Bulletproof Executive, which is a business that I admire and trust.
Grass fed and pastured meats are the preferred source because of their nutrient dense and omega rich nature.
Whey protein is another preferred source, because of it’s high bioavailabilty and diverse amino acid rich profile.
Some of the animal proteins in the middle of the spectrum contain higher amounts of saturated fats and lower ratios of healthy fats, and the main protein I strongly advise you avoid is soy, which I consider to be the corn syrup of protein sources, because it’s ubiquitous in processed foods and it’s really, really bad for you – especially if you are a man and don’t want to increase your estrogen.
Once again, keep it simple. Pasture raised lean meats and wild fish are great. High quality whey protein is great. Grass fed, whole fat dairy is good. Keep cheese in moderation and aim for grass fed at worst and grass fed, raw cheese at best.
Looking at a real life example of how I incorporated protein into my diet today, I ate organic, free-range eggs with grass fed cheese and grass fed butter for breakfast. For lunch, I grilled grass fed flank steak and ate it in a whole grain wrap. Later, for a snack I ate almond butter with whole, grass fed milk. And for a final snack, I ate organic blueberries. I didn’t eat a protein-less meal today, and I ate high quality proteins, along with healthy fats and low-GI carbs, which brings us to our final key.
Key #4: Balanced Meals – Bringing it All Together
In key #1, you learned the importance of managing and regulating our blood glucose. In key #2, you learned the importance of eating the right fats. In key #3, you learned both the perils of a low carb diet, and the importance of consistent high quality protein intake. Naturally, we are going to incorporate all three into our meals.
Now how many meals you choose to eat a day it up to you.
Personally, I think that meal frequency depends on the person and it’s more of a trend than anything right now. (Not that there aren’t benefits to each.)
If you are a grazer, eat 4-6 smaller meals a day, if you are a caveman, eat 3 a day. Or, if you are a hybrid like me, you can do a combination of both; eating a couple of bigger meals, interspersed with some smaller snacks as desired.
Keep in mind, if you are eating just smaller meals/snacks, it will be harder to incorporate low GI carbs, the proper fats, and quality protein into each ‘meal’, but if you have the time and the patience, then my all means, follow your bliss. And if you aren’t sure what works for you, try both!
But the important thing is to eat balanced meals. This is because the ratios of protein, fat, and carbs that you consume at each meal are a huge component of your well-being and the success of your diet.
Many crossfitters and paleo dieters like to use the Zone Diet ratios: 40% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbs.
I personally follow something closer to what Dave Asprey, at the Bulletproof Executive recommends, which is ‘50-60% of calories from healthy fats (this is easy and tastes good), 20% from protein, and the rest from vegetables.’
Macronutrient ratios can be hard to follow and this can cause anxiety. If you need more structure, create a free account on FitDay.com, where you can enter all of the foods you eat (many of which will already be in their database) and it will track these ratios automatically for you.
In all actuality, I don’t count or track calories of my per meal macronutrient ratios. I eat balanced meals, which cover the three keys of low GI carbs, good fats, and quality protein, which automatically puts me in a camp of very elite eaters.
You can read and research until you read a million opposing opinions and your head begins to spin, but you will be best served by taking what you have learned and eating intelligently. This is going to require putting more in-depth thought and planning into your food choices than you are used to.
You are going to have to learn how to eat again. A ham sandwich will no longer cut it. Your burger and fries will need to be reinvented. Your steak and potatoes will have to lose the potato in place of steamed broccoli with grass-fed butter.
These are just examples, but keep in mind that changing your eating habits for the better is going to require investing in what you know is good for you and balancing that with what you enjoy.
I 1000% believe that you can enjoy eating more than ever by switching to real foods. That’s what this is; it’s a real foods diet. Your whey protein will likely be the most modern thing you will be eating.
No more processed foods. No more foods from companies that sponsor NASCAR, no more meat from a factory, no more crap.
Please keep in mind, common sense goes a long way – as does balance. Drinking lots of water, eating organic veggies, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats will serve you well. Also remember, this is about a sustainable lifestyle adaptation, so don’t go extreme in your diet, but clean it up and remember that this is about changing your habits, so it’s not a small matter. Massive action = massive results.
Feel free to post questions, talk shit, or give me feedback.
Coming soon, Part III: Fat Loss, Supplementation, and Training…
Edit: Part III Published